Eleven ways martial arts training empowers women: Part 2

It can help improve their self-discipline

Unless you’re being dragged or pushed along, genuine accomplishment requires a strong sense of self-discipline. Plenty of women don’t want to be dragged or pushed. They don’t want to subject themselves to the devaluing of being objectified. They want equality in assumed success potential, that none should claim they cannot overtake the dreams they pursue. They must, therefore, be self-directed. Self-discipline is how a person obeys the orders they give herself; it’s the power to follow your own directions – the ones from the map of your goals. Any woman, therefore, who would prove her naysayers wrong, achieve her dreams, and free herself must flex her self-discipline muscles on a regular basis – martial arts training is an excellent stage for that.

Martial arts can be deadly. The better a person is at it, the more important it is that he or she exercise self-control over more than just their muscles. But that’s not the only way martial arts requires self-discipline, as seeing the mental and physical benefits that await the committed happens when you have the self-discipline to simply practice when you’re supposed to . Being a part of the class and performing in sync with the agenda, having the right attitude also takes a measure of self-discipline. Eventually the discipline exercised overflows into other areas of life. No matter your aim, whether it be to become a master or just fitter, martial arts is an effective route to greater self-discipline – which independent-thinking women must have to reach fulfilment.

It can help change their point-of-view

Not all women are leading the front lines of change when it comes to gender stereotypes and discrimination. Some have bought into the attitudes of the past regarding their limitations. For them, breaking free can mean developing a different point of view. They may have to reach beyond what they think is ‘ladylike’ or women’s boundaries in order to achieve the things that deep inside they want and know is possible. But changing mindset can be hard for anyone. Luckily, the belief that women are overly, frail, fragile waifs can easily be transcended through a consistent and increasing display of physical strength. Women who can come to trust that their bodies can withstand more may come to consider that they are able to achieve more in life.

It’s true that martial arts practice can be a great workout. But the power that can be achieved through martial arts often goes far beyond anything most exercise routines offer. For example, a great student can take on an opponent more than twice their own size and still win. For a woman, realizing that she has such an ability at her disposal can have a dramatic effect on her attitude and outlook overall. She may no longer be satisfied to fall for the tale that women were meant to be weak or that their general smaller size in comparison to men means they should always play follower and not leader. A woman can still retain her ladylikeness and be strong. In fact, the strength and the control that comes with martial arts training can reinforce her sense of womanhood and the measure of femininity that others observe in her.

It’s an opportunity for them to become accomplished

It’s easy for a person who’s never made any major advancement in life to start believing that such accomplishment is beyond them. It’s difficult when the day-to-day achievements that add up to greatness in the long run remain unacknowledged. Despite how society has changed, it remains that women give so much of themselves to their families. Sure, it’s stereotypical to say that women do housework, but the majority of the people keeping house even today are women, even if they also work outside the home. Many of today’s women make the money to buy the food, bring it home and cook it, clean up after it and take care of the entire household. Many of them go without the recognition they deserve. It’s a hard job. It’s time for them to do something for themselves for a change, like take martial arts.

Martial arts training is a different kind of education, but it still has levels. With each stage comes recognition, whether it be in the form of a different color of belt or a trophy. Achievements are recognized. That can be like a breath of fresh air for the woman who feels underappreciated. She can feel proud of herself and strong. She moves to a new level and that level becomes hers. No, the decision to take martial arts should not be made on a craving to feed the ego, but it ought to be made according to the desire to do and be more. For the woman who needs to reach beyond her perceived bounds and realize the greatness that she is, martial arts can be soothing therapy for the soul. 

It can give them a better handle on fear

Fear is a horrible yet highly effective distraction from life. Men are known to be brave. Women are known to be timid. We know these are stereotypes. To some, a brave, heterosexual woman comes off as mannish – and that’s just wrong. But the thought of playing the damsel in distress, the princess that needs a knight in shining armor has been so deeply ingrained into many women that they embrace fear as logical. They see it, however unconsciously, as a friend. They let it hold them back and be dependent. They default to it at every opportunity. But fear is chains. It can undermine achievement by stopping it before progress even begins. This has many women stuck in the past definition of what a woman can and should be. Fear is a disability for which martial arts can be a very effective remedy.

If fear is not a friend, then it is a foe. It works to block you from achieving your aims.  Foes inspire fear as a form of attack to weaken you. The hope is to inspire you to attack mindlessly in weakness, flee, or be paralysed by fear’s spell. Fear is your opponent’s weapon and so their companion. It is on their side. They are one and they aim for your defeat. Pain is their ally but your strength can make it serve you. Befriending fear is choosing sides against yourself and your hopes, dreams, and goals, but in martial arts you face your opponent. In martial arts, a woman who once saw herself as being fragile, timid, and easily the victim learns the right way to deal with fear. It can set her free in so many ways.

It can transform how they defines themselves

The way a person defines themselves predicts how their life will go. But self-perception isn’t always based. Many people place limitations on their lives by underestimating their abilities and it keep them stuck in a rut. Sometimes the self-perception is based on past experiences. It can also come from what a person has been told he or she is or should be. For centuries and throughout numerous cultures women have been taught that they must take a meek role; that they must resist the temptation to connect with their inner power and potential to play a role of submission and subordination. Yet women have contributed some amazing things to the advancement of mankind that go beyond reproduction. Women who remain held back by the self-definition they’ve internalized may find freedom through testing their perceived boundaries.

What better way to push against your perceived limitations than by practicing martial arts? The training can put every part of the self to the test; the physical, mental, emotional, and the soul in its entirety. For the woman who’s always assumed that she could not be more, martial arts training can reveal her potential – and that can roll over to other areas of her life, granting her more freedom, confidence, and peace of mind overall. Her self-perception can start to change; where, for example, she felt powerless she can come to recognize her inner and physical strength. Where she thought she had to play the victim, she can now have the confidence that comes with being skilled in self-defense.

Martial arts as a route to empowerment for women

Although the martial arts world is often seen as a male dominated one, there has ever been women who are very skilled in it. Martial arts training can prove beneficial for people of all kinds, regardless of age, gender, and all other demographics. We live in a modern age and culture where women have far more liberty and power than ever before, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t still those who need to overcome the antique barriers established to keep women boxed in – it’s one thing to have freedom and a far different thing to be able to use it. When one person reaches the fulfillment of their best self, all may benefit. But the road to empowerment can be elusive, as the specific need that keeps each individual bound must be addressed. Martial arts offers a holistic solution in that can strengthen both mind and body.

Consider some of the approach’s women have used to become more empowered. There’s support groups, yoga, mentoring and so forth. Martial arts encompasses them all in its own way. For this reason, martial arts can help expedite a woman to the self of her dreams – or the great self she can’t even imagine right now. It can equip her with the tools she needs to accomplish her lifelong goals. It can give her the self-discipline, self-concept, and overall strength she needs to go up against her Goliaths and win. Whether the woman is a stay-at-home mom, a businessperson, married or single, the benefits martial arts can bring her makes it worth any diligence it demands. 

About the author: Xiao Ma is a Yang Sheng Tai Chi Instructor, a 2nd Degree Black Belt in the Korean self-defense art of Hapkido and a 2nd Dan in Traditional Taekwondo. She is the World Martial Arts Congress Language, Culture and Character Development Teacher. http://www.worldmartialartscongress.cn Visit her website at http://healthylifetaichi.com

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